Santuario de Chimayo gift shop employee charged for pocketing cash

New Mexico News

CHIMAYO, N.M. (KRQE) – A church worker is accused of stealing money from the Santuario de Chimayo. Investigators say the young woman was pocketing cash pilgrims and tourists were spending in the gift shop.

Every year, people walk miles, making the pilgrimage to the Santuario de Chimayo on Good Friday. It’s a sacred place that people say has healing powers.

“It’s very peaceful and heartfelt, and you just feel all the goodness and the faith when you’re in there,” a parishioner said.

But the historic church has become victim to a crime.

The Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office says a church worker in the gift shop was stealing money from the register. The church account manager told deputies in June, the Archdiocese began investigating.

The church says after a busy weekend, the sale numbers reflected the “sale norms,” so they began investigating. People who KRQE News 13 spoke to were appalled to hear someone would steal from the church.

“It doesn’t matter what your religious affiliation is, that’s not a good thing at all,” said Sean Costello of Albuquerque.

Deputies say the cashier, 20-year-old Theresa Chavez, took more than $3,600 over several days. They say surveillance video shows Chavez failing to enter cash sales into the register, or deleting them after cash was exchanged.

When confronted about the theft, deputies say Chavez confessed to taking the money and claimed four other co-workers were also in on the scheme.

“I feel like it’s another thing that’s bringing our status of a wholesome community in New Mexico down,” said Costello.

None of the other employees Chavez named have been charged, but deputies say since Chavez and those other employees were fired or resigned, sales have nearly doubled.

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